When Nap came back

After a season spent Partying at Napoli’s and raising close to $200,000 for Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, Tribe fan Nate Crowe had bid farewell to the famous phrase he coined—and the player behind it. But, when former Indians first baseman Mike Napoli returned to Cleveland for the first time, Crowe (that’s @HipsterTito  to you) made sure he was there to see it.

He chatted with Waiting for Next Year on his experience at the game, how it felt to see Nap back at the Jake, and why he’s ready to move on to what’s next.

NATE. I felt like I said this last time, but I can’t believe we’re talking about Party at Napoli’s one more time. Can you believe it?

It feels like every time is the last time but here we are again. This is definitely it for Party at Napoli’s… at least here in Cleveland, anyway. With the last ring ceremony and first game back out of the way, I think it finally rides off into the sunset of what 2016 was.

Tell me all about being at the game. What an incredible comeback!

That was out of nowhere. After standing out in the right field corner all weekend, watching the Twins absolutely put the Indians road win vibes to shame, I was expecting more of the same by the time the Rangers put seven on the board. Once it became 9-2, it was just a slap-happy type of game. More chatter with friends than anything else at that point. I did point out to a few folks around us during the bottom of the fourth that comebacks happen one run at a time. When Perez scored on the Lindor ground out, we all jokingly put up one finger… announcing the rally was on.

I think we stopped joking around in the bottom of the fifth, and started clamoring about how the Texas bullpen could find a way to blow it (which has been a pitfall for them all season… memories of the Lindor grand slam off their then-closer at the start of the season). The bottom of the sixth on is a crazy blur of yelling, high fives, jumping and plastic saxophones. It was one of those fan experiences you only get so many times. Maybe in 10 years, the Indians will memorialize it like they did with the Seattle comeback and suddenly 100,000 people can say they were there for it.

Were you there to see Nap get his ring? How was it?

Yes, I arrived two hours early to be there for batting practice to heckle a bit, stop by to see Jensen and Al, then get one last crack at what was last year. The Indians did a video montage which was a nice hat tip to Nap’s contributions last year. Despite how awful that postseason performance was, they would not have been in that position without his 34 HRs and 101 RBIs, along with the presence he carried in the clubhouse. The 2017 Indians have missed that presence. There hasn’t been someone taking that “extra Francona in the dugout” role the way that Nap did all of last year. While Edwin is an absolutely incredible talent and a huge upgrade, the Indians haven’t solved the “wily, sage veteran” piece to the puzzle that most successful ballclubs seem to have. For a quick montage, there were plenty of thoughts and insights.

Cut4 had a nice pic they tweeted of the ceremony with the fans in the background. It was all well done by the Indians.

I heard a rumor you had a “Napoli Appreciation Night” planned. What’d you do?

Nothing big… just shirts and the big sign.

I thought about bringing the original sign again, but that one will remain under lock and key. Of course, I was treading a line here between enjoying last year and wanting to turn the corner this year, so I didn’t want to do more than really what started everything. A few people asked if there would be anything more but I didn’t inquire or consider. In the end, it was Game 75 and the Indians needed to get back on track after this past weekend. When they do, Nap can visit to join in on the celebration. I’m sure he can find plenty of places to stay. The Barley House can offer up a few couches.

How did it feel, to see Nap back at The Jake?

This year has been in such a weird funk. The All-Universe shortstop with plate discipline suddenly is stuck on flying out (yes, Lindor is hitting HRs but the rest is a drop-off and that’s not what the team needs him to be). The starting rotation is a mess. Despite a great record on the road, they are routinely getting dusted up at home. Injuries. Illnesses. 2016 celebration babies and the resulting paternity leaves (lol). This team, and frankly this year, needed a shot in the arm and maybe this was the right reminder to get back.

It was a bit refreshing to see Nap back: watching him interact with everyone during batting practice, waving to fans in the stands, walking around to various parts of the field and just absorbing his surroundings. I’d never seen him do that before, so I can only assume… but at one point he walked out to center field, wrote something on the warning track, patted the wall and walked back to the Rangers dugout before warming up more. On a smaller scale, it was similar to when Chris Gimenez was back: he walked around to catch up with everyone. It’s always great to see former players who enjoyed their time here come back and interact with everyone.

Maybe it’s not so bad in this city after all.

Did you get a chance to speak with him before the game?

I did not. I didn’t want to bother him, so I figured I could just send him a message on Twitter later. He did wave during warm-ups when he saw the “WE STILL PARTY” sign. There were a ton of other folks out that had a bunch of stuff for him to sign, etc. and didn’t want to add to all of that noise. I’m a 38 year old father of three… I’m awkward enough as it is. Bugging somebody to talk isn’t in the awkward dad playbook.

What was great though was how many people who were a part of last year’s festivities were there. It wasn’t a sell out by any means, but running into people I haven’t seen in quite a while was great. One of those people was Kat, whom I haven’t seen in person since the World Series (we still talk through Twitter and other messengers to keep tabs on each other). I had mentioned to a few others recently that there were things I missed about last year: being around these people I met through the whole Party at Napoli’s stuff is one of those.

Please tell me, despite it being a night of Nap, Jason Kipnis’ Saxy Saxophones were out in full force. 


Photo courtesy of Nate Crowe.

“Playing” the saxophones during Ookay’s “Thief” when Kip comes up to the plate is a fun thing to do (credit to a friend of mine, Anthony, who bought the first set of saxophones and brought them to the game. We talked about it and he delivered… he’s now unofficially “Saxthony.”). People around us get into it and we’re starting to see other people bringing in inflatable saxophones to join in. The Hot Dogs have picked up on it and have their own saxophones. Cut4 and MLB made it into a gif. It’s another organic thing that would be cool if it picked up some steam and got going into something. 2017 needs fun. This could be it if the team picks it up on the field. I’ve talked to the Indians about doing a video of Kip taking a sax to the plate instead of a bat, but it’s going to tread down a path of licensing for use of “Thief” that the price tag may quickly exceed the value. What’s funny is that Ookay has liked a few of the tweets directed to him about Kipnis using his song and the reactions it has been getting.

If you think about it… there really could be something there. Maybe we could fly in the Sexy Sax Man himself Sergio Flores.

Cue the smoke pouring out of the dugout… Kip appears bat in hand, walks out to the batters box with Sergio in tow….


Maybe something will happen there: we’ll see.

I was going to ask you what you’ve got planned next, but it sounds like you’ve already got something cooking. We’ll keep an eye out, Nate.